(November 28, 2023).  The top of the Billboard Hot 100 has been so weak recently — that assessment based on the songs’ chart point totals, not a quality judgment about today’s hits (although some in my age group may subscribe to the latter) — that we could have a Christmas tune at the top of the trade’s song popularity ranking as early as next week… and, thanks to a viral new music video, it may not be Mariah’s recently unthawed 1994 juggernaut.

On the current Hot 100 singles chart, dated December 2, Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” leapt from its No. 17 re-entry last period to No. 4.  That’s an all-time high placement for her song at this early stage in the holiday season.  On last year’s December 3 list, she climbed to No. 5 and two weeks later, on the December 17 ranking, displaced Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” to begin her fourth-consecutive season sweep of the No. 1 position for holiday tunes.  

In any other year, the momentum Mariah’s modern classic is seeing now would almost guarantee her a No. 1 spot as early as next week — and it still may.  Except quickly moving up behind her — not only in chart position but in overall points — is Brenda Lee’s early rock-era classic “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.”

If Spotify’s Top 50 is an early indication, Brenda’s festive classic is already tops.  The tune moved ahead of Mariah’s on the daily streaming tally on November 18, and has outpaced it every day since, thanks in part to a new music video celebrating the 65th anniversary of Lee’s hit.

Brenda Lee released this video of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” three weeks ago.

Next week (chart date December 9), the two songs are already projected to occupy the top two slots on Billboard’s main singles list.  In fact, the entire top five are projected to be Christmas songs, marking the earliest in a holiday season that Yuletide tunes have completely taken over the top of the chart. 

But the bigger development is how fast Lee’s 1958 gem is gaining on Mariah’s omnipresent tune.

According to chart data from various sources, “Rockin’” is running neck and neck with “All I Want” in combined airplay, sales and streaming points and gaining at a faster clip than the latter tune.  If both songs continue gaining at their current paces between now and the end of the tracking week — Thursday, Nov. 30 at 11:59pm — then Brenda’s song could easily overtake Mimi’s and land in the Hot 100’s No. 1 spot.

Even if it doesn’t happen next week, the two would be close enough in points that it could happen the following chart period.

That would be incredible news for the 78-year-old Lee whose only two No. 1 singles to date were both in 1960: “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted.”  Aside from the annual return of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” her last Hot 100 entry was more than 50 years ago: 1973’s “Nobody Wins,” which peaked at No. 70.

If Lee’s tune reaches No. 1, it would represent the longest gap between an artist’s first and most recent No. 1s at 63 years and five months between “I’m Sorry” in July 1960 and “Rockin’” in December.

Notably, “I Want to Be Wanted” topped the chart in October 1964, which would represent the longest period that an artist had to wait between their most recent No. 1 and their latest.

A No. 1 placement for “Rockin’” on the December 9 Hot 100 would also make Lee the oldest artist to ever top the Hot 100 just two days before her 79th birthday (Dec. 11). The current record belongs Louis Armstrong, whose “Hello Dolly” famously ended the Beatles’ three-month reign in 1964 when he was 62 years, nine months and one week of age.

The age record among women, believe it or not, currently sits with Mariah Carey, who was 53 years, nine months and two weeks old when “All I Want” rose to the top last December. Carey (who recorded the Christmas tune in 1994 when she was 25) surpassed Cher in this category with last year’s crowning.

It’s tiiiiiime… for a new No. 1 Christmas tune! Mariah Carey has dominated the Christmas season every year since 2011.

Brenda has had to play second fiddle on the charts to Mariah every holiday season since Billboard reinstated its annual Holiday 100 — a chart that uses the Hot 100’s methodology but is specifically devoted to yuletide music.

On both the Hot 100 and the Holiday 100, “Rockin’” has peaked at No. 2 behind “All I Want” in each of the last four holiday seasons.  On the holiday-specific list, “Rockin’” has peaked at No. 2 or 3 in every season since the chart’s modern-day return in 2011, with it placing runner-up in every year (all behind Mariah’s tune) but 2011, 2014, and 2018.

Because the two charts use the same methodology, if Brenda Lee’s beloved single reaches the top on one, she will by default be No. 1 on the other.

But it’s the Hot 100 that matters most.  And even if you’re in the “not until December” camp, there’s no denying that Christmas seems to be coming earlier and earlier for these holiday hits.

And since there has to be a Christmas tune at the top under Billboard’s current chart rules, why not make it one that’s never been there before.

Especially while Brenda Lee is still around to see it happen!


DJRob (he/him/his), music chart trivia geek, is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

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By DJ Rob

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